A few years ago, I went to Oprah’s “The Life You Want” conference in Miami. Over two days, it was 10 hours of Oprah’s life-changing mantras and inspiration, live and in person. Oprah and her trailblazing experts—Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, and Iyanla Vanzant—pushed and rallied a crowd of 15,000 women (and a few men) to live their best lives.
After watching The Oprah Show for 15 years, filling up dozens of journals, and making dramatic changes as a result, I felt like I had to be there. How could I not?
As I soaked in transformational advice, it dawned on me that there was something I had to do after leaving.
Translate these remarkable messages for mothers.
Though the conference was powerful beyond belief, none of the content was geared toward moms despite the fact that the majority of the audience was mothers.
Oprah often tells us to “follow your passion, and it will lead to your purpose.” My passion is to help make the lives of mothers easier. So perhaps it was my purpose to go to Miami and not just listen to Oprah’s advice but translate it for messy and chaotic moms.
It’s one thing to live your best life. It’s a whole different thing to do it while taking care of a family.
So here are seven of Oprah’s life lessons through the filter of modern motherhood.
#1 Happiness is an inside job.
Okay, this was not from Oprah. It was from my Uber driver on the way to see Oprah. He asked why I was going to the conference, so I told him, “Oprah taught me how to live the good life, and I’m here to learn even more.” He chuckled and said I didn’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to attend a conference about the good life. “There is only one thing you need to know about the good life,” he said. “The good in life can never come from the outside. It must come from inside. Happiness will never come from things outside yourself.”
Wise man, that Uber driver. He should be Oprah’s driver.
Yes, you love your children and your partner, there’s no denying that. But they live outside of you. What about what’s going on inside of you? Do you value and respect yourself? Are you kind to yourself? Your family cannot be your driving force of happiness, if you’re not happy with yourself first. The good news is that the more you love yourself, the more you can love them.
#2 Fear is saying “yes” when you mean “no.”
This is one of Oprah’s favorites. She’s said yes a lot, when she wanted to say no, and she now realizes that was out of fear. How many things have you agreed to this week, when you really wanted to say no? The gift you didn’t want to buy, the dinner you didn’t want to make, or the smile you didn’t want to fake. Dozens probably. When your gut says “no” and your mouth says “yes,” it means you’re afraid of something. You’re afraid of letting someone down, of someone thinking less of you, of looking like a bad mother. Think about the last three times you said “yes” against your better judgment. What were you afraid of?
#3 You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
Oprah encouraged the audience to “stop letting other people captain your ship.” If you’re a mother, I’m willing to bet that you have some form of the “disease to please,” which means the rudder on your sailboat isn’t long or strong enough. It means you’re easily swayed by other people’s opinions (Don’t you think you travel too much for work? What does your husband eat at night since you don’t cook for him?). You allow those opinions to chart your course and change your actions. Nobody gets to sail your ship but you. It’s your life, your family, your future. You get to steer. When you feel like you’re being swayed by the wind or someone else’s opinion, picture your rudder getting longer and stronger.
#4 Your outer world is a reflection of your inner state.
If you constantly tell yourself you’re not good enough, smart enough, nice enough, tough enough, pretty enough, or mom enough, you’re going to spend your days, nights, and weekends overcompensating for your perceived weaknesses. And, you’re going to wear yourself out. The average human produces 50,000 thoughts each day and 70% of those are negative. See what you can do to be happier on the inside (start by being nicer to yourself), and your world will transform on the outside. As Stacy Griffith from Soul Cycle preached during her time on stage: “Your issues stay in your tissue.” Be careful what you say to yourself. Try to avoid yelling like a drill sergeant when you forget to send lunch money to school or forget your godson’s birthday, again. They’ll live. Forgive yourself.
#5 Life is always trying to tell you something. Listen.
As a hardworking, busy mother, you’re likely running from point A to Z, and everywhere in between—every single day. Along that path, there are likely signs that tell you whether the life you’re living works for you. The signs typically begin as a whisper (a voice in your head saying you should not have volunteered for another activity at your son’s school) and get louder (stomach pains or headaches) until they smack you in the face, like when Arianna Huffington collapsed from exhaustion at work and split her head open on her desk. It happens. Arianna saw the clues and heard the hints, but she ignored them. Life always tells you the truth. Your job is to recognize and accept it. What are some hints your life has dropped lately?
#6 The life you want is on the other side of the labor pains it will take to birth it.
Iyanla Vanzant shared this nugget of greatness. She has made a lot of tough decisions and radical changes in her life, including leaving her husband of 40 years after marrying him twice. She wanted the audience to know that making change is painful, but it’s worth it. Just like childbirth. So if you’re going through change or the desire to make change in your life, know that it’s going to hurt like hell, but trust that the pain will pass and you’ll emerge a stronger and better person. If it’s as life changing as having a baby, you might go back for more.
#7 After you’ve done all you can, stand still and surrender.
Oprah uses the notion of surrendering to let things go (she admitted that letting go is her biggest weakness). Here’s how to think about surrendering when you’re a mom. At the end of the day when you’ve tied all the shoes, packed the lunches, driven around town, baked the lasagna, enforced the time-outs, helped with the homework, brushed the teeth, and read the bedtime stories, it’s time to let it all go. Now it’s your time to surrender. You’ve done all you can do. Don’t take the doubt and worry and unaccomplished things on your to-do list to bed with you. Tomorrow is a new day, and today you did the best you could.
In the conference workbook Oprah handed out, she wrote a quote that I fell in love with: “With the setting sun each day, go to bed with a heart filled with gratitude for yet another day lived on purpose.”
By sharing these tips, I feel as though I lived this day on purpose. I hope these words help you do the same.